AB Project and Charlottesville

AB Project and Charlottesville

Blog written by Finn Boyle

Umberto Eco closed his immortal and resonant essay Eternal-Fascism by declaring; “Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us if there appeared on the street somebody saying ‘I want to reopen Auschwitz’… Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and point the finger at any of its new instances – every day and in every part of the world.”

​What Eco means by ‘Ur-Fascism’ is the potential, almost-fascism that exists in every society and epoch, the kind that resides “in plainclothes”. It’s often difficult to fight Ur-Fascists, physically or otherwise, simply by virtue of the fact that one could say ‘but they’re not real fascists!’, as if the only qualifier for being bad is being a Nazi.
​This protection-by-No-True-Scotsman has allowed Ur-Fascist groups to grow and Ur-Fascists to become increasingly prominent in recent years. Ur-Fascism could be seen manifest in Anders Behring Breivik in July of 2011, and in the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August of 2017.
​But, unlike Breivik, it wasn’t the demonstrators and white nationalists themselves who embodied Ur-Fascism. They were proud and open Nazis, “real” fascists. No, Ur-Fascism could be seen in the reactions outside of Charlottesville. Ur-Fascism could be seen in the media and government officials who tried to deflect blame from the (I feel the need to stress this) literal Nazis to the counter-protesters; the victims of the Nazi violence.
​Ur-Fascism could be seen in the White House, when President Trump initially condemned “many sides” for the violence that occurred, only to eventually bow to pressure and specifically condemn the Nazis (only to then later renege and again blame “both sides”). Ur-Fascism could be seen in Breitbart, which quickly published articles claiming that the Governor of Virginia refused to condemn “leftist political violence” and that the organizer of the rally in question was an Obama supporting Occupy activist.

​The Nazis in question, a group called Vanguard America, are particularly relevant to the project due to their tactics. Nary a year old, Vanguard America’s members are young, with most reportedly in their early 20s. This is no accident; Vanguard America recruits predominantly from University campuses, searching for young, disenfranchised men in search of a purpose. Men who are, in our current socio-economic system, disposable.
​What Vanguard America has done with these men is a business transaction. They pledge to Vanguard America their loyalty and lives, participating in its so-called ‘cult of death’ and ‘contempt for the weak’ (hallmarks of Fascism and its Ur- counterpart), and in return, Vanguard America gives them something the modern world can’t – an identity.

​This is where the AB Project can act as a powerful force for good. For while Nazism and Ur-Fascism endow in their vessels identity, art does as well. The difference being that art doesn’t require death and subjugation. Rather than let these men become potentially dangerous to large groups of people, their minds twisted by hate and a fetish for power, they can be reached out to and made into that most dangerous of persons: artists.
​One of the reasons why Eco might’ve thought of Ur-Fascists and their ilk to be eternal is because that suits the Powers That Be. Far-right groups have always received less attention from governments simply because those far-right group’s ideology often hold that the current power structure must be maintained, by any means necessary. In that way, groups like Vanguard America are merely acting as an extreme extension of Washington, keeping down all those who pose a threat, especially the young and artists.
​One of the reasons artists are so threatening to traditional power structures is precisely the fact that many of their numbers include these young and disaffected men. And of course, one more artist means one less Ur-Fascist – one less soldier for the powerful. The AB Project, by actively engaging in themes of youth disenchantment, can directly threaten the powerful and engage in these at-risk people.

​I would like to refer back to the quote from Umberto Eco regarding Ur-Fascism. He is right, in that it is our duty “to uncover it and point the finger at any of its new instances”. When he said “our”, he meant all humankind. However, we, as artists, are in a unique position to combat Ur-Fascism. Because unlike those in the White House, we can actually do something.

AB Project begins in Canada

AB Project begins in Canada

AB Project: Revelstoke
Phase One

By Finn Boyle


​The abbreviation of Revelstoke’s province unveils its true character: BC. While the second and third letter of the alphabet technically stand for the Canadian province of “British Columbia”, in Revelstoke’s case it could also mean “Before Christ”. Revelstoke isn’t an anachronism per se, rather it’s confused as to what era it belongs to. It is simultaneously a frontier town, surrounded by dense forest and oppressive forest fires and an isolated 1990s murder village a la Twin Peaks, not to mention its diverse immigrant population spanning several continents making it a model post-contemporary society. It is, in more concise terms, an ideal place to develop the AB Project.

​The local theatre group in Revelstoke, Flying Arrow Productions, is one of the younger troupes the project has to offer. Discussing the group beforehand, David told me about a mature actress around the age of 12. Going in, I had expected this to be the exception, and not the rule. Never have I, in my short experience with the AB Project, been one of the oldest members in the room. While Flying Arrow does involve people of all ages in their various productions, the AB Project seems to have attracted a younger demographic. This observation, that the members are young, is not meant to disparage them: on the contrary, these are some of the sharpest and most mature young people I have met in a good long time.

​Having conversations with the devisers outside of Project hours displayed the creativity and sense of community that the AB Project requires. Discussions ranging from late-20th century politics to the use of the golden hour to gender and racial dynamics in modern society to (of course) the life of Anders Breivik, displayed the intellectual and artistic depth shared by the devisers. Their discussions of such topics outside of devising also presented the positive influence art and, in particular, Flying Arrow Productions has had on them. Walking amongst such an active and engaged group conjured the vision of a Utopian world in which all could think and act like those that surrounded me.

​The fact that the AB Project is being tackled by such interesting and artistic youth speaks wonderfully to its goal. Several of the Project’s key themes include youth opportunity and alienation. By engaging young artists such as those in Revelstoke, Flying Arrow is tackling the central thesis of the AB Project with a sense of praxis sadly lacking in much of the modern theatrical world.

Flying Arrow’s Founding Director and the AB Project: Revelstoke regional director, Anita, embodies the spirit of Revelstoke. She co-ordinates the workshop with a timeless, distant yet ever-present quality that fosters a great creativity: she is always there to help, but will take a step back to let the devisers continue unabated. One example is her “Astonishment” exercise, wherein she wrote the aforementioned word on a whiteboard and got the group to come up with events they found astonishing. Her input was direct, but she allowed the group to develop and devise autonomously, which in turn fostered teambuilding and independence. A friendly, safe and free atmosphere was created from her style – a typically Revelstokian style. This, in turn, lent the AB Project a distinctly Revelstoke flavor, aiding in its further development.

​If the AB Project, in its final phase, is to be an international youth play then it has to be just that – international. Revelstoke is the ideal place to begin the Project’s first phase, with its timeless quality and eclectic mesh of peoples. And its youth – sharp and irrepressible – set a high standard for the project to come. Flying Arrow Productions and the David Glass Ensemble’s combined efforts in Revelstoke, BC, present a fortuitous dawn of the next three years. And they couldn’t have picked a better place to begin. After all, as stated earlier, “BC” technically stands for “British Columbia”, but it is also the inevitable continuation of AB.

Gavin’s blog on life in Chengdu

Gavin’s blog on life in Chengdu

With two and a half months left before I return to the UK to work alongside David on Bleak House, I have become reflective of my time spent here on behalf of the Ensemble. Since arriving in Chengdu over 3 months ago, the staff at Marphy’s Play House and Marphy herself have been the most welcoming, warming and fun group of what I can now call friends. I have gained a family that I know I could return to anytime, and that is something quite special, humbling and unexpected of my time here.

Since March, I have been devising an adaptation of the Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel. This has been a project I have been working on with the other teachers at the Play House. The aim is that from the end of this month they will be touring it around schools here in Chengdu, as well as conducting workshops to aid the children’s learning. These teachers have little experience in devising, so it goes without saying that this was a difficult task- yet they have all grown in confidence and have become positive risk takers. They understand that the story and the telling of it is the most important. Their skills are developing weekly and their dedication to their work is inspirational.

This week the older children I teach (9-11 year olds) got to perform Halibu, a story about the Mongolian nomads. Having only had 12 weeks and under 40 hours with them, it is phenomenal what they have achieved. When I started with this class, one of the children didn’t even want to perform! His (as well as everyone’s) progress has been huge, and he got up on stage and performed amazingly! His mum even said to me afterwards, “drama has helped him so much, he’s much more confident and positive now thanks to drama class”. Hearing that and seeing this growth myself has been a highlight of my time here so far.

I now move my attention to the 6-8 year olds performance of The Journey to the West and summer camp, whilst continuing my weekly classes at the weekends. It’s an understatement to say I’m busy – however as much as I am seeing others learn and develop, I too can feel a development in myself. I always thought I was a good listener, but my time here so far has taught me how to REALLY listen. How to listen to others needs and learning abilities, listen to cultural differences and understand how this effects our creative outlet and communication. I’ve learnt how constricted we are by TIME. Learning, development, growth, understanding, exploration and progress all takes time. When we teach or direct, time is our enemy – there is never enough of it!

However, what I now fully understand is that creativity is endless, as are our dreams. There is never a finished piece or project because there is no bottom or top to it. Creativity is continuous, creativity has no boundaries – that is why stories are retold, because it is different every time. When my time here comes to an end, I will be happy to have had my share of the story at Marphy’s Play House, and I will continue to stay in touch and watch on as the story and adventure continues to unfold here.

In light of the recent electoral results, the future is uncertain and we have witnessed many other crazy political movements, and not just in our own country. As a young artist I feel empowered to be part off the Ensemble, I feel as if my voice can be heard. But so can everyones, if you are feeling oppressed, frustrated or angry – get together, create art and theatre to express, if nothing else it will give you a voice! We are stronger together than apart!

– By Gavin Richards

Turin to Siena and back to London

Turin to Siena and back to London

I met Natalie Richardson and her husband Enzo after flying in to Turin airport on 7th September. Our aim was to create a Promotional video for Bleak House, a show I had previously been a part of at The Arts University Bournemouth and am now assistant producer for. Youth Empowerment is at the heart of the Bleak House project and it was for this reason that I was so enthusiastic about this project. I am excited to be working with Natalie who is teaching me what the role of producer includes. I learnt a vast amount in three short days from how to develop a realistic show budget to how to negotiate meetings with funding boards. We worked through the day and enjoyed Turin’s wonders during the evening. This lively place has the delights of warm evenings, amazing food and plenty of places to sit around together being creative.

After a five hour train journey I arrived in the beautiful place called Siena. The buzz of the city seemed to lend itself to the creative spirit. It was here I met with The Theatre Collective of Siena, a theatre group composed of roughly eight women who were directed by David Glass. This group were inspiring to watch, composing true beauty with the strength of the women’s form. I assisted David in production meetings where we discussed the future of the theatre group and how they could transform the out dated and repressive theatre system within Italy and internationally.

This trip was truly humbling, to work with such talented and kind performers and producers, the Italians showed me just how uncomfortably polite the English are and how we need to change this if we are to carry on being successful in theatre.

ENOUGH WITH THE STIFF POLITE THEATRE BRITAIN! Time to move on to real reality.

October Newsletter

October Newsletter

Fahrenheit 451

David Glass Ensemble (DGE) has begun it’s first co-production with East 15 Acting School on a contemporary theatre piece inspired by Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Featuring music by David’s cousin, Philip Glass, and rock music from the 1950s, the performance explores book burning and the death of culture. Associate Artist, Benji Reid will be doing a photo essay on the process and performance. The production is an Ensemble Incubation Project and we are looking to tour internationally in 2018.

Performer Emma Crowly-Bennett has said in her blog; “after the first week of rehearsals for Fahrenheit 451 my head feels like a a pan of bubbling soup, ready to boil over and fuck the lino flooring… I feel inspired, powerful and angry.” For the full blog visit the DGE Facebook page here.

Performances: 17th – 19th November 2016
Booking information


David will be presenting the Ensemble’s work past and future on 26th of October (7.30pm) at Goldsmiths College, University of London, including The Lost Child Project and Bleak House.

DGE in Asia

Hester Welch has begun a six month contract in Chengdu with our partner in China, Marphy’s Playhouse. During her first month as Head Actor/Teacher she has been coaching the teachers to develop their understanding of creativity, drama and non-formal education. She has been using David’s Creative Practice, schemework created by Professor Joe Winston (University of Warick), as well as her own practice to teach children between the ages of 3 and 12 years. This month she begins directing a new performance installation for families, inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Abramović’s Rhythm 0 and Duchamp’s Etant Donne, in preparation for the opening of a new theatre at the Play House. For the full blog visit the DGE Facebook page here.

In November, Associate Artist Jonny Hoskins will be joining Hester in Chengdu to lead a week of Lecoq based training. This intensive course will focus on mask work and clown to provide an introduction to the teaching of the great theatre master, Jacques Lecoq. If you would like to attend, please email hesterwelch@davidglassensemble.org for more information.

More exciting events in China include a key note speech by David in Shanghai. The speech is part of the Alternity Festival at the China Art Museum on the 11th of December 2016.

New Team Member

Elisabeth Gunawan will be joining us as a Producer based in Singapore. In addition to her artistic work, Elizabeth serves as a Performance Lead at Google, working with small and medium businesses to be at the forefront of technology. We are lucky to have her on the team!

Bleak House

In December, International Producer Natalie Richardson and David Glass will be visiting 7 cities in Singapore and China to finalise the tour of Bleak House for Autumn 2017.  Back in Europe, Jade MCSharry has been working on the promotional video for Bleak House in Turin, Italy with Enzo Appetecchia and learning more about producing with Natalie Richardson.

News from Chengdu

News from Chengdu

A month has passed since my arrival in Chengdu and I find myself writing this from a peaceful tea house in the Buddhist Monastery, Wenshu Temple. It is my day off and I am exploring the most well preserved traditional buildings in the city. The tea houses are famous in Chengdu, along with spicy food and of course pandas. I just have the latter to experience now!

The staff at Marphy’s Playhouse are like a family and I feel honoured to be a part of it. Our leader, Marphy, is an incredible woman. Not only is she the head of a pioneering company in the capital of Sichuan, but also an inspiring teacher, mother and now friend.
I live with two lovely teaching assistants who are incredibly helpful and patient with me and my lack of mandarin!

During the week I have been accompanying the teachers to a small primary school (only 1000 students!) to observe their classes and lead coaching sessions with them. Approaching education through drama is, generally speaking, an unknown practice here so it is very exciting to be a part of a new movement in China. It has been met with some scepticism by the more traditional teachers at the school, but so far the children have really taken to their new class where we have been exploring the ancient story of Sun Wukong.

Across the rest of the week I lead different sessions in creativity with children between the ages of 3 and 12 years. I am using David’s Creative Practice, my own methodologies as well as Marphy’s own scheme work developed by Professor Joe Winston (University of Warwick) to explore this. Next week I will use music from experimental electronic artists Quantic and Bonobo to help the children create their own improvisation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar!

From October I am creating a performance installation with two Chinese performers based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This will be a playful, interactive art work, inspired by Abramović’s Rhythm 0 and Duchamp’s Etant Donne, where the children have the opportunity to control the performance. The installation will help promote the new Play House Theatre opening at the end of the year and also act as a learning opportunity for the teachers who have predominantly seen only traditional theatrical performances.

In November I will be joined by Associate Artist, Jonny Hoskins, for a week of clowning and mask work. All of us here at Marphy’s Playhouse are looking forward to seriously flexing our silly muscles!

Over and out.